For farm use you want to start with the standard AC/DC Lincoln tombstone (shaped) SMAW arc welder for $325. Great for the most versatility in terms of new (heavier) work as well as repair, hard surfacing, etc. Then you need an oxy acet outfit ($400 to $500 including torch head, cutting head, regulator and tanks. This lets you do cutting, small welding, and brazing. But mostly cutting.
A MIG outfit is nice for thin metal like bodywork as well as nice production welding on new stock. Decent 240 volt rig will run $700 and up. It can do aluminum but TIG is better.
TIG is the ultimate for alumum>
I've been researching welding equipment for weeks and the more I learn the
> more baffled I am. I want to build a front bumper for a truck similar to
or a ranch hand
> type bumper. I looked at several welders and have been reading 2 books
> about welding. One is "welder's handbook" complete guide to MIG, TIG, ARC &
> Oxyacetylene welding, the other is "The Oxy-Acetylene Handbook" from 1943. >
> I thought I had settled on an oxy-acetylene rig and a lot of practice, but I
> kept coming across how easy TIG welding is. My preliminary conclusion is
> that a skilled weldor can do anything with any of the methods, just that
> some are more efficient than others. ???
> My cost/benefit analysis consists of: new bumper costs $1500-$3000. Welding
> equipment for a casual user and enough steel to practice with is well under
> that, plus I'll have a new skill. The oxy-acetylene combo will allow me to
> cut rebar for construction so that's a definate plus.
> In the future, I'd like to be able to weld 1/4 to 1/2 inch steel for typical
> farm applications. I would also like to be able to weld aluminum at some > point.
> My questions are: can an oxy-acetylene rig do what I want it to do with
> enough practice? Can it be used to sweat solder in copper pipes for
> residential plumbing (or is it too hot). I've seen prices from 100-700 for
> the equipment to oxy-acetylene weld, is the higher price justified? I plan
> on keeping/using this for 30 years or so.
(clip)I'd like to be able to weld 1/4 to 1/2 inch steel for typical farm applications(clip) ^^^^^^^^^^^^ I won't comment on any of your other options, and, while I think oxy-acetylene is one of the most versatile systems you can have, it is not a good choice for the work mentioned in the clip above. You will use a LOT of gas, you will spend an lot of time bringing your work up to welding temperature, and after a weld, you will have to wait for the red heat to cool down, just to handle the piece.
A stick welder is a good choice for general purpose work around the farm.
What that bumper needs is a pressbrake to bend your pieces, and a tubing bender to form the brush guard tubes.
Not out of line, but the pressbrake forming is best farmed out to a big shop. You can use pipe for the brush guard and simply use a cheap Harbor Freight hydraulic pipe bender
It is similar to the bumper I made for my truck. I welded up channel from 1/4" x 4", 1/4" x 3" and 1/4" x 2" steel flatbar, then miter cut it to wrap around the front of my truck, and finished it off with 3/8" plate steel endplates
At that price I could get rich making bumpers.
Oxy Acet is good for cutting from 1/4" to 4" thick with a standard rig, but for welding, anything over 1/8" is a very slow and hot process.
A good AC/DC Stick welder will work better for assembling your bumper.
As others have suggested, I have to say that I agree that a decent stick welder is the way to go. A new Lincoln "buzzbox" or "tombstone" style welder would be good, or a Miller 330 A/B:
would be even better.
The latter can be found at auctions, ebay, or in the classifieds. You can outfit it for stick, but also have the capability to do tig down the road, where as with the buzzbox, you'll be "stuck with stick". Sometimes these things go fully outfitted for less than $500 (water cooler, remote pedal, gas apparatus).
Regardless of the process you choose, I think a oxyfuel rig is a must-have complement for any welding rig. Cutting (steels except stainless), heating, welding, brazing, & soldering are possible with the correct attatchments. Victor's Contractor Plus Heavy Duty outfit can be had for around $400 plus whatever cylinder size you plan to go with.
It can, but other systems are more efficient, which is why they are commonly used, while the OA is commonly set up with the cutting torch, which it is best at. As others have pointed out, you have some forming issues beyond the welding issues. While the traditional farm setup has been OA cutter and Stick (SMAW) welder, in this day and age a MIG welder or a MIG/TIG/stick powersource certainly deserves consideration. If possible, if such things are left in your part of the world, find an adult ed welding class - you can learn, and make decisions about what to buy, and just possibly even get your bumper built.
It can, but an air-acetelyne torch (preferably a two-burner Y-torch) does this job better and cheaper (no oxy, none needed for this task, and you do have to back off a lot to stay in soldering range with the OA torch, but it can be done if you only have a little bit to do). It's also easier to haul just one tank to the plumbing problem. But if you are only doing it on a residential basis for yourself, ye olde propane torch does the job well enough and a lot cheaper & lighter than either.
When you look that far into the future, getting good stuff the first time counts; but it can also be difficult (especially as a neophyte) to sort out what costs more becasue it's better, and what costs more because you are getting screwed and someone is making a tidy profit. Smith and Airco have been good brands, and if they have not prostiuted their names onto "made in China" (in very small print) junk, probably still are. You also need to remember to have the stuff serviced regularly to keep it happy, which is easier with a good torch than a cheap import which there may be no parts available for in 5 years.
As a relative newbie to welding, still on the learning curve, I'll chip in my support also for going with stick for much of what you're doing. From what I have seen here and elsewhere, a TIG rig would cost you more than the cost of the new bumper, and would be considerably slower (though more precise). A 240v stick welder is pretty inexpensive, and can handle a pretty wide range of materials. (Don't bother with a 110v stick welder.) I cannot claim to be even close to a "good" welder, but I have gotten acceptable results with stick after just a little instruction and several hours of practice.
One thing stick will not do (or at least not very well) is to cut -- you can haggle off a chunk with stick, but it will not be very pretty. I've not tried aluminum, but what I've read here is that thicker pieces can be welded with the proper stick electrode, but it won't be all that pretty a weld.
Thanks, Ernie (and everyone else) for the advice. I'm going to be reading some more before I spend anything, but you all have put me on a better path than I was on. I'll start reading up on stick welders and get a oxy-acetylene rig for cutting.
What is the best way to cut steel plate that leaves a good straight edge? Bandsaw? Can you get a good edge with a torch?
Thanks again all of you for taking the time to help! Dan
That is incredible! I was expecting some sort of abrasive cut-off wheel, but to cut steel with a blade??? I'm impressed! I use a guide for my circular saw when cutting plywood, and it looks like the same technique would produce the same quality edge.
I've helped my son build a dozen or so bumpers along those lines and his tools consisted of the following:
MIG welder Torch (for cutting) Angle grinder (you need one for any welding!) Pipe Bender (from Northern Tools or Harbor Freight)
They've all been built out of 1/8" or 3/16" plate, usually 3/16" and 1 1/4" pipe. It did one with 3" pipe but that was for the bumper itself instead of the grill guard. You have to use pipe for the bender because it can't bend tubing properly and you don't want to pay the extra for something that will. :-)
If we had a plasma cutter we wouldn't need the torch and he wouldn't have to spend half the time grinding that he does. :-) I haven't tried the circular saw blade someone else mentioned so it may be the perfect solution but I have used a plasma cutter and it's a great improvement over a torch in this situation.
But there's an important difference between our bumpers and the one in the link you provided. You would need some major forming for one like that and I don't really think you can do that in a home shop, especially for the money you're talking about. Instead, he builds them by cutting out most of the panels, welding them together and then grinding the welds. If done properly you can't tell it's been welded except that the angles are sharper on the edges. I don't have a picture of any of his right now but he's modeled most of them after the typical ARB bumper as shown in this image:
They're all painted because that's a lot easier than trying to make Aluminum or Stainless look good with the tools we have available. It would be even better to find someone in your area to powder coat it, or chrome plate it if that's what you prefer.
We have done some bending where it would look better than having a sharp edge. We used the frame of the pipe bender as a press brake to put a nice bend in some 3/16" plate and it did a much better job than I expected.
Best Regards, Keith Marshall email@example.com
Nice bumper. It's got just about everthing but a cup holder.
But I'd move the winch mount up some 'into' the bumper instead of hanging out of the bottom of the bumper mounts. This will keep water/mud out of it in the event you are going thru very muddy/sloshy conditions. (Maybe this winch is enclosed, but appears below slightly)
I had one friend who made a 'bumper guard' right below his roller fairings on his winch in case he accidently tapped someone he didn' want the roller bearings to force backwards and hurt his winch.
Might suggest some recovery hooks somewhere. They are great for all kinds of stuff, including pulling tree stumps, etc.
You'll like the feature of the 2" receiver up front. It's great for having to pull a trailer out backwards, a recovery hitch, mounting a removeable winch (if you don't mount the bumper mounted one), and the 2" receiver platforms you can buy for putting coolers, etc on. Also great for making a mount for heavy saltwater fishing rod holder if you leave near the beach.
remember to allow for the extra weight versus the stock bumper in the bumper and acessories.
make sure to post some pics of it when you get it done.